I have not been especially critical of the initial cuts announced by Michael Gove in his departmental budget. At a time of financial retrenchment - whatever the arguments about the timing of the £6 billion cuts - every department will have to find its savings. The quangos that he has earmarked for abolition - the QCDA, Becta and the GTC - have never really lived up to their potential, although the Secretary of State may underestimate the costs of delivering some of their services through other means. I have also been no fan of the academic diploma, and can see the merit in using underallocated funds in the education budget to reach the £670m target.
However, there is one cut in the list that he published earlier this week that is a false economy: the cut in the High Performing Specialist Schools programme. Amounting to a mere £7 million in savings, the cut sends a negative signal to heads and governors that there is no reward for improving standards and no additional support available for important system leadership roles such as becoming a teacher training school or extending subject work in languages or science.
Indeed, so closely aligned is the work of the HPSS programme to many core objectives of the coalition programme, from good schools helping weaker ones to school-based teacher training and strengthening academic subjects that one would have thought this a programme to be built upon not undermined. Indeed, if Gove is serious about wanting his new outstanding academies to work with weaker schools, a combination of the incentives in the HPSS programme and the National Leaders of Education is precisely what he needs. With limited resources, the Government needs programmes that deliver genuine value. Come the Spending Review, Gove should think again.